Position PhD Student
Institution University of Nottingham
Discipline Geography
Affiliations Rights Lab’s – The Slavery Observatory  
Twitter @BethJackson1x
Other links University Profile; LinkedIn
Blog satellitesandsocialscience
 Contact  Bethany.Jackson@nottingham.ac.uk

Personal Bio

43Bethany is a second year PhD Student at the University of Nottingham, in the School of Geography. After completion of her undergraduate degree (BSc Hons Geography) at the same institution in 2016, she began her Masters research in October of the same year before transferring to the PhD programme in July 2017. Her research project is funded by the Rights Lab and explores the brick manufacturing industry and fish-processing camps of South Asia using freely available remotely sensed satellite imagery.

After campaigning for Amnesty International on several human rights campaigns, Bethany became involved in the ‘Slavery Observatory’ project as she was interested in the human rights abuses involved in modern slavery and has a background in remote sensing analysis. She is now looking at the brick kiln industry at depth using machine learning and also assessing the intersection between modern slavery and environmental destruction using freely available satellite imagery, which forms part of the work for another of the Rights Lab’s projects: ‘The Antislavery Ecosystem’.

She is supervised by Dr. Doreen Boyd (School of Geography) and Prof. Kevin Bales (School of Politics and International Relations).

Research Profile

Slavery from Space: An Analysis of Modern Slavery across South Asia using Remotely Sensed Imagery

Bethany’s doctoral research focuses on the beneficial ways freely available satellite imagery can be used to provide additional data to support Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8, target 8.7. This project focuses on the brick manufacturing industry of South Asia located in the ‘Brick Belt’ (an area which encompasses Punjab in Pakistan, several northern Indian states, Nepal and Bangladesh). The research aims to produce a robust statistical estimate of the number of kilns present in the region; map their locations using machine learning techniques; and finally assessing the environmental impact of the kilns. The project uses both imagery available via Google Earth, as well as the European Space Agency’s (ESA) new medium resolution Sentinel 2 satellites – the project aims to provide an additional methodology to support evidence-based decision-making in order to tackle contemporary slavery.

Her work also focuses on the environmental impacts of modern slavery industries in protected locations. This includes the assessment of ecosystem services, and monetary valuation, of the presence of fish-processing camps in the Sundarbans Reserve Forest (SRF), Bangladesh – which became a UNESCO protected World Heritage Site in 1997. This industry is not only bad for the mangroves ecologically, but the industry also employs the use of child labour creating both environmental and ethical arguments to stop the practice. Satellite imagery allows for easy viewing of a protected and remote location in order to reduce the damage being caused.

The research Bethany is conducting covers human rights abuses, satellite imagery and processing techniques, environmental destruction and the future uses of remote sensing for the SDGs. The work she is producing is part of a wider set of research projects (the Rights Labs ‘Slavery Observatory’ and ‘The Antislavery Ecosystem’) which aim to expand their scope in order to explore other industries known to use slave labour, including: forests, quarrying, fisheries and cotton.


Slavery from Space: Punjab


A crowdsourcing project that aims to employ volunteers to identify whether there are brick kilns present in an image from the partner in the project – DigitalGlobe. The crowd is searching the area of Punjab in India, and an adjacent area of the equivalent size from neighbouring Punjab in Pakistan. The project is investigating the power of the crowd in helping to identify possible sites of slavery and is also allowing for the training of machine learning algorithms for the identification of brick kilns in other satellite imagery.

The project leads are Dr. Jessica Wardlaw and Dr. Doreen Boyd and you can assess the project here: https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/ezzjcw/slavery-from-space-punjab


Boyd, D.S., Jackson, B., Wardlaw, J., Foody, G.M., Marsh, S. and Bales, K. (2018). Slavery from Space: Demonstrating the role for satellite remote sensing to inform evidence-based action related to UN SDG number 8. ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing.

Jackson, B., Owen, S., Wardlaw, J., Boyd, D.S. and Bales, K. (forthcoming). Analysing slavery through satellite technology: How remote sensing could revolutionise data collection to help end contemporary slavery. Slavery Today/Journal of Modern Slavery, Spring 2019.